S4W have an upcoming webinar on 28 May at 11 am -12pm where they will provide an update on their two koala projects, we’re they would love it if you could join them.
Please see all additional information on the webinar below.
‘Tune in online for an overview of all the work we have been doing to map and track surviving koalas after the 2019/20 bushfires, as well as the latest news from our project monitoring koalas after they are released from care. There will be an opportunity for a Q&A at the end of the webinar.’
By Jessie Malpass (Communications Officer, Science for Wildlife)
Rescued Koalas returned to the Bush (plus 1)
As the massive bushfires were consuming the Greater Blue Mountains area, Science for Wildlife leapt into action and saved 12 koalas. With the help of volunteers and wildlife experts, Executive Director Dr Kellie Leigh and her team did everything they could to save as many koalas as possible from the approaching fires. These koalas were taken to Taronga Zoo for three months and were returned once it was safe to do so.
In March 2020, Science for Wildlife returned not 12 but 13 koalas to the wild! One of the koalas gave birth to a tiny joey after she was rescued.
Post-fire scat surveys tracking the koalas
Now, it has been just over 12 months since the last of the 2019/2020 bushfires, Science for Wildlife has been working hard to track surviving koalas. They have been monitoring the koalas that were saved ahead of the fires to learn how they use the landscape after fire, as well as heading out to five study sites across the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury to conduct scat surveys and find out how many koalas survived, and where.
Since September 2020 they have completed over 200 scat surveys with the help of volunteers, and have another 250 to go this time, using their koala detection dog team, including Smudge the Coolie. Conserving koalas in unburnt areas including around private properties is now more important than ever, and so Science for Wildlife conducted a recent ‘Community Attitude Survey’ to identify barriers to conservation. The results from the surveys will guide the information that S4W shares with communities, to improve outcomes for koalas and other species.
Camera Trap Project – calling for volunteers!!!
Help us work out which species used water and food stations during the bushfires
In March 2020, the last of the devastating 2019/20 bushfires were put out but Science for Wildlife was still on emergency response for wildlife, putting out water stations and food for any remaining wildlife in burnt areas. After the huge effort to place the food and water stations in the bush, Science for Wildlife wanted to evaluate if their efforts were worthwhile, so a team of staff and volunteers put out camera traps to monitor the water and food stations – hoping to capture images showing a range of wildlife benefiting from these stations.
Then COVID-19 hit, and the team were unable to bring the cameras back in to analyse the images and had to leave them out for a few months. For the remainder of 2020, Science for Wildlife focused on broadscale surveys to map surviving koalas to inform population recovery.
The team at Science for Wildlife would love your help to look through the camera trap images to see what we can discover! Fortunately, this summer has been kinder, but more hot summers and droughts will come, and the findings will help to guide welfare efforts for koalas and other species during the next extreme weather event. Water stations were placed up in trees and on the ground, so you will be looking for a range of arboreal and ground animals as well as birds. We cannot wait to see what animals you find! All you will need is a computer and internet connection.
Here are the questions Science for Wildlife are looking to answer:
Which water stations designs were used, were some used more than others?
Were the water stations still used after the heavy rains arrived?
Which species used the water and the food drops?
Which sites had more wildlife using the resources we put out, and how does that relate to fire intensity in that area?
Where were feral animals present, and how many were there compared to native wildlife?
Blue Mountains Conservation Society are pleased to host local ecologists, Judy and Peter Smith, talking about the native fauna of the Greater Blue Mountains on the very day the World Heritage listing for the area was decided back in 2000.
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is home to a remarkably diverse native terrestrial vertebrate fauna (currently 434 species) of international significance.
The World Heritage listing recognises the region’s globally significant natural values including its biodiversity.
Judy and Peter will talk about the fauna of the GBMWHA as it stood at the time of publication of their book (October 2019) and then look briefly at what has happened to the fauna since.
Koalas were massively impacted by fire in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Help Science for Wildlife understand the issues that are important to you, in regard to conserving koalas and their habitats.
With the protected area network so badly impacted, the unburnt habitat that remains in and around residential and rural areas is more important than ever to our surviving wildlife, including koalas.
However, conserving koalas in developed areas is complex. There are always competing interests when humans and wildlife occupy the same land. The first important step in protecting koalas in these developed areas is understanding any barriers to effective conservation, and working with communities to find solutions that respect the different values that people hold. That’s where your participation is critical for conservation, everyone can help by taking this brief post-fire koala community survey and sharing it with your friends.
Your time and honesty are greatly appreciated.
We are asking as many people as possible to take this survey, so please share and forward to your friends and networks.
Week 1: Tue 6th – Fri 9th Oct 2020 – complete Week 2: Wed 14th – Fri 16th Oct 2020. Week 3: Tue 20th – Fri 23rd Oct 2020. Week 4: Wed 28th – Fri 30rd Oct 2020. Week 5: Tue 3rd – Fri 6th Nov 2020. Week 6: Tue 10th – Fri 13th Nov 2020.
Some information about the surveys..
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is 1 million hectares in size, and 80% of it was impacted by fire. Within this region we had identified 5 koala study sites where koalas were known to occur: we are heartbroken that four of those sites have had 75% or more of koala habitats impacted by fire. That’s why we need your help. Mapping where koalas still occur across the mountains after the fires is a critical first step in helping us to understand how the fire impacted their populations. One koala can use anything from 5ha to 300ha of land each year, and they also use trees that are over 45m tall in some areas so they can be extremely hard to see. That’s where scat surveys come in.
Scat surveys are a great way to discover what different species have been up to when no-one was around to observe them. They are particularly effective for finding animals that are only in low densities after the fires. This project involves carrying out koala scat surveys across a range of different burn intensities and habitats, to find out where koalas survived. You’ll also encounter scats from other species along the way and learn about scat identification techniques. You can also pick up some basic eucalypt identification skills as we will identify the tree species that we find koala scats under. Come and learn the art of scatology!
You don’t need to sign up for the whole week – when you register to volunteer it will give you the option to select the days you’re available. However, it takes a while to get your eye in for scat counts, so we’d like all participants to commit to helping for a minimum of 2 days over the whole survey period (they don’t necessarily have to be within the same week). Beyond that, you can come out as often as you’d like! Our schedule will depend on weather, fire risk ratings, and land access, but we will endeavor to go out on the dates listed below.
The data we collect will provide vital information for planning conservation action and koala population recovery. We need to know where the koalas are, so we can allocate resources to protect them. We are also undertaking ecological studies of koalas at some sites, including tracking them to work out where they move and how they use the landscape after fire. This information is then shared with land managers so that we can work together towards koala population recovery. We can’t promise that you’ll see a koala, but you’ll be making a big contribution as the scat surveys will help us to map where koalas have survived after the fires. Seeing the impact of the fires on this beautiful area can be difficult to take, especially in the badly burnt areas, so please consider this when choosing to volunteer.
Scat surveys will be undertaken in South East Wollemi National Park around Bilpin, Colo Heights and north off Putty Rd, and also on public land in the developed areas around Kurrajong, Grose Vale and Upper Colo. You’ll need your own transport as there is no public transport to the survey sites. All survey sites will be accessible by 2WD vehicle, otherwise we will ferry you in our 4WD from a nearby point.
Once you have selected tickets to register below, you will receive more details on the exact area you’ll be surveying with us, and where to meet, etc.
What is involved:
First thing in the morning you’ll be given a brief overview of the Blue Mountains Koala Project, then a safety briefing, and then you’ll have a quick practice spotting some koala scats on the ground. Depending on how long the walk to each survey site is, we plan to complete around 4 scat searches per day, possibly more.
Each scat search will be done inside a quadrat that we will measure out when we get there, using removable flagging tape. Then we will all search the leaf-litter, and see what we can find! We’ll also check what tree species are around, to confirm that the vegetation type on the map matches what is actually on the ground (this is called ground-truthing). Then we will check to see if the burn intensity matches the satellite fire mapping. When we find a koala scat, we will first have an excited celebration, then we mark a GPS point and identify the nearest tree species. In some places koala scats might be rare, but you’ll hopefully find scats from wallabies, wombats, and other native critters. We hope to find lots of signs of life out there.
The survey locations can be remote so you must be competent in bushwalking off-track, i.e. through sometimes thick understorey vegetation, and up and down forested slopes. Some sites will be on ridgelines, others in valleys and along creek lines. A reasonable level of fitness is required as sometimes the slopes are steep. A team leader will take you to each site using a GPS so you don’t need bush navigation skills – unless you’d like to have a try while you’re with us.
Are there a minimum age requirement to enter the event?
The surveys involve long days in the field, plus a lot of walking. For that reason the event is not suitable for children. You can use your judgement for older children (over 15) if they have been on long bushwalks with you and enjoy a full day in the bush, but please note that if we are surveying a remote site then it would be difficult to return to the vehicles sooner than planned except in cases of emergency.
What should I bring into the event?
There are no shops nearby so you’ll need to bring a day-pack and carry your own water (a guide is at least 2L per person per day), lunch and snacks, plus sunblock and insect repellent. A personal First Aid kit is also a good idea, your team leader will also have a First Aid kit. Wear hiking boots with ankle support, and long trousers (bring gaiters if you have them), plus a long-sleeved shirt and hat. The bush can be spikey so leggings are not advisable. Gloves are optional but can be handy (pun intended), particularly if you don’t want to directly handle the scats. The weather in the mountains is changeable so bring a waterproof jacket and appropriate layers to stay warm. Please check the weather forecast before you leave. There are no toilets nearby so be prepared to make a bush toilet stop if needed (dig a hole and bury your waste, at least 100m from any waterway).
How can I contact the organiser with any questions?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the Post-fire Koala Surveys in the subject line. During the event and during other fieldwork over the next few months we will be out of mobile phone coverage so email is the most reliable method of contacting us. You can also send a text to Victoria, on 0421 778 845 but please note that it will not be received until the end of each day, or possibly the next day. Please note that once you’ve registered via the ticketing process we’ll be sending you some more information by email, including where and when to meet each day.
Project Partners Science for Wildlife is working in partnership with our core supporters San Diego Zoo Global, and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), who are providing support for us to understand post-fire koala distribution in the Blue Mountains region under the NSW Koala Strategy.
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